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Get ready for a lot of coal-plant shutdowns

Adapted from an U.S. Energy Information Administration report; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

A near record amount of coal-powered electricity is poised to shut down this year, according to recently released federal data.

Why it matters: President Trump has promised to revive the coal industry, but virtually all objective market trends and analysis indicate that’s not going to happen in any sizable manner.

By the numbers:

  • Roughly 13 gigawatts of coal electricity at more than a dozen different units across the country are set to retire this year, according to the U.S. federal U.S. Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department.
  • That amount is second only to 2015 when nearly 15 gigawatts of coal power shut down.
  • Coal’s share of the electricity generation mix, which as recently as a decade ago was close to 50%, is projected to fall below 30% this year, according to EIA’s short-term energy outlook released Tuesday.
  • Driven by exports, coal production increased by 6% last year, but it’s expected to decline by 2% this year and next.

Why it’s all happening: A primary reason for the near-record amount of coal electricity shutdowns this year is persistently cheap natural gas prices, while in 2015 the reason was largely a pending deadline to comply with an environmental regulation requiring power plants to cut pollution of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants, according to EIA analyst Scott Jell. Coal emits far more pollution than natural gas.

Yes, but: Jell said EIA’s projections are based off announced intentions to shut down plants, which could change from what ultimately ends up occurring.

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